Imogen Malpas reviews Martin Bailey’s latest book.
People who own smartphones and laptops carry around computing power that would have been incomprehensible to people thirty years ago (and remain incomprehensible to some of us today – insert formal apology to the Apple Genius Bar employees here). This book, “unashamed geek” Martin Bailey’s seventh, is designed to help us make the most of that power.
Bailey makes a point of stating in the book’s introduction that he wasn’t paid by anyone to recommend the devices he features, which makes a pleasant change and more importantly means that we can take his reviews at face value. And, in your millennial hubris, don’t think you’ll have heard of all of this stuff already. Sure, some of it might be familiar, anyone who’s ever had to sit through an interminably unskippable YouTube advert for cat food has AdBlock installed, but the majority covers new ground.
This is the kind of book whose contents could be found through a lengthy spell of “googling”, but that shouldn’t make you dismissive. A large number of the apps and devices it features are the kind of thing you’d want to have safely in your pocket before the need arose to use them – like Google Photo’s backup service, which will be of little use after one of those pesky thieves-on-mopeds has relieved you of your smartphone. Here, it’s all in one place, allowing you to download what you need before you need it.
Individually, Bailey’s product reviews are impressively engaging, avoiding condescension with care whilst making sure to fully explain the features of each product. My fears of a contemptuous voice sneering at my choice of antivirus software were totally unfounded, here is an author who knows exactly how to engage with his audience, regardless of age or technological prowess. Most enjoyable of all are Bailey’s anecdotal additions, such as his tale of scamming a scammer and advice on how to treat itchy insect bites with a spoon: not as gruesome as it might sound.
As for the gadgets themselves, they’re surprisingly useful. I was equal parts excited and disappointed to read about ‘Tiles’: little trackers that can be attached to the remote or your keys and activated via the Tiles app to beep loudly, thus allowing easy retrieval when they inevitably make their way into the depths of the sofa. (Excited because this is a product I desperately need; disappointed because that’s a business idea I was sure would make me millions down the drain.) Even cleverer are apps that allow you to accurately measure and create floor plans of a room, use an old phone as a security camera, and win every eBay auction you enter. And there’s less techy, more practical stuff too: devices to purify water on the go, turn a standard lamp into a bug-killer and improve your golf swing (take note, you corporate types). Prices and information on where to buy are included, as well as some cheaper options for the financially challenged among us. So this Christmas, if you’re stuck for what to buy the person who has everything, buy them this book: and let them decide for themselves.
The Useful Book of Gadgets, Gizmos and Apps is available for order at theusefulbookofgadgets.com now.